Pacemaker in place, California Senator Dianne Feinstein appears ready for a fight over Donald Trump's nomination of judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia. The 24-year Senator is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on Gorsuch later in the year, but liberal pundits are encouraged by the signals she's shown so far, perhaps including her withering stare in the above photo.
That's the Chronicle's take, pointing out that Feinstein, after all, recommended federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland for the job, a centrist or moderate like Feinstein by most standards who was President Obama's choice for the court.
“To see the way he was treated, with almost a year to consider his nomination, was just appalling,” Feinstein said according to the Chronicle. “The humiliation that he went through. Asking people just to meet with him and getting turned down. Asking just to have a hearing and getting turned down. Bringing volumes, literally box after box after box of records, putting it all together, walking these halls day and night, and getting the back of the Republican hand... Many of us haven’t recovered from that. So I think the appropriate thing is to take our time considering this nominee. The court’s not going to fall apart. It’s going to be just fine.”
That's to say that Feinstein appears in no hurry to pick a ninth justice for the court after a long period with just eight of them. Although she thought it "was really going to be problematic with tie decisions... I’ve looked at the tie decisions and in a way it’s prevented bad things from happening.” In the event of a four-four tie on an eight member Supreme Court, the decision of the lower court is upheld.
Feinstein voted against George W. Bush's nominations to the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and to Daniel Goldberg, the legal director at the Alliance for Justice, she's likely to do the same with Gorsuch. “She has always been an incredibly thoughtful senator, a senator who cares deeply about the issues that come before the Supreme Court," Goldberg told the Sacramento Bee. "It's telling the type of leadership she showed on the Jeff Sessions nomination,” Goldberg added, referring to her opposition to Trump's pick for Attorney General.
The Bee also points out that Feinstein has promised a "thorough review,” observing also that Feinstein has meaningfully noted Gorsuch's anti-choice rulings. "Judge Gorsuch voted twice to deny contraceptive coverage to women, elevating a corporation’s religious beliefs over women’s health care.” A constitutional originalist like Scalia before him (though BuzzFeed points out that Garland has cited Scalia in rulings more often than Gorsuch has), Gorsuch, 49, is a conservative who seeks to interpret the constitution as it was intended at the time it was enacted, which is to say, when it took a minute to load a single shot into a rifle.